Conducted by Georges Michelson-Dupont, Trustee, Manager of Translations, Urantia Foundation, Recloses, France
A survey of translators and revisers (T-Rs) of The Urantia Book was conducted in 2013.
The purpose of the survey was to help Urantia Foundation understand the typical profile of a Urantia Book T-R in order to discover the kinds of individuals who will most likely become translators or revisers of The Urantia Book.
This survey was sent to thirty persons who have participated or are participating in the following translations or revisions: Arabic, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, Estonian, Farsi, French, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Japanese, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish–a total of twenty languages. Twenty-eight or 93% of T-Rs completed the survey.
Of the twenty-eight persons answering the survey, twenty were “original” translators. That is, they first discovered the English text in contradistinction to first discovering and reading a translation. Nine were original translators who also participated or are participating in the revision of their work. Eight persons were solely revisers.
A summary of each of the questions asked to the 28 T-Rs is as follows.
The background of the T-Rs is related to the language that the books have been translated into. What follows is the number and percent of T-Rs in each area.
18% Chinese, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean
B. Mother Tongue
All of T-Rs speak the target language of their translation as their mother tongue. In addition to their target language, the following shows the number and percent of T-Rs speaking languages other than their mother tongue and English.
Speaks 10 other languages
Speaks 5 other languages
Speaks 4 other languages
Speaks 3 other languages
Speaks 2 other languages
Speaks 1 other language
Speaks 0 other languages
C. Experience as Translators or Revisers
For this survey, a professional translator is defined as an individual who makes his or her living as a translator. An occasional translator is defined as an individual who, in their profession, writes, reads, or speaks English extensively. No experience is defined as an individual who knows English but has no experience in translating from English into another language or vice versa. The following are the numbers and percentages of translators who have a certain type of translation experience.
Professional translators or English teachers
No experience prior to translating The Urantia Book
82% of the T-Rs have extensive professional experience in translating from English into their mother tongue.
D. Level of Education
Ninety-seven percent of the T-Rs have a higher education or university degree and are trained in intellectual and cognitive activities. The following is the number and percentages of T-Rs who have each level of education.
Advanced university degree (Masters or Ph.D.)
Some university education
E. TOEFEL or Ph.D. in English
TOEFL stands for Test of English as a Foreign Language. TOEFL is a standardized test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers wishing to enroll in U.S. universities. A Ph.D in English also suggests a high level of English proficiency. The number and percentage of T-Rs with each credential is as follows:
Ph.D. or equivalent in the English language
F. Mastery of Mother Tongue and English
The next set of questions asked T-Rs to rate their level of mastery of both their mother tongue and English using a scale from 0 to 10. A ten connotes mastery of one’s own tongue. One person did not answer.
Mastery of one’s own tongue increases the quality, fluency, readiness, and beauty of the translation. A richness of vocabulary is essential for creativity in expressions and for translating the nuances of The Urantia Book.
G. Interest in Spirituality
A question was asked about whether the T-Rs read other spiritual books prior to translating The Urantia Book. This question provided a perspective on the T-Rs interest in spirituality.
Most of the T-Rs (nearly 82%) were truth seekers interested in spirituality prior to being exposed to The Urantia Book. Many have read the Bible, the Koran, and books of Eastern philosophy, not only in their mother tongue, but also in English, which I see as a preparation for the translation of The Urantia Book. For instance, Jacques Weiss, who translated The Urantia Book into French, translated Alice Bailey and other spiritual writers before translating The Urantia Book.
H. Discovery of The Urantia Book?
Where the T-R first came into contact with the book is shown below. The categories were predetermined.
From a family member/friend
In a library
In a bookstore
Browsing the internet
From other books
From the media
It is not surprising that 54% were introduced to The Urantia Book by a family member or friend, and no one found it in a bookstore. Twenty-one percent found The Urantia Book through other books (Spanish: J.J. Benitez and French: La vie des Maitres).
I. Personal Qualities Required to Translate The Urantia Book
In this question the T-Rs were asked to list the personal qualities that they believe are required in translating The Urantia Book. Each individual may have given multiple responses.
Love for the book and its teachings
Determination and commitment
Understanding of The Urantia Book
Command of target language
Experience in translating
Sense of responsibility
Work as a labor of love
Love of the book and its teachings comes first. It is the source of a commitment to devote seven to twenty years of one’s life in translating The Urantia Book. This is the major reason why it is not advisable to use a professional translator unless he or she is a reader. Commitment comes second. This is not surprising considering the time required to complete a translation. One has to be really committed to work every day for a minimum of three to five hours. The Urantia Book is composed of over 1,100,000 words and 18,000 paragraphs and contains, according to Dr. Sadler, 56 new concepts. Composing a list of specific Urantia Book terms in a target language is required before starting a translation. Such a glossary or dictionary of terms ensures coherence and consistency.
J. Current Status of Translations
Under the auspices of Urantia Foundation, twenty-four translations have been completed or are in-progress.
As for the completed work of these 28 translators and revisers, the following is the status of each translation published, either in print or electronically by Urantia Foundation.
Physical books and eBooks
Dutch, Estonian, French, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish Americas, Spanish European, and Swedish (15)
eBook or internet only
Arabic, Bulgarian, and Romanian (3)
Chinese, Czech, Farsi, Hebrew, Indonesian, and Japanese (6)
The following translations have not yet been revised:
Dutch, German, Italian, Lithuanian, and Swedish.
The following translations have been revised at least once:
Estonian, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and Spanish.
The following translations are being revised for the first time:
Korean and Portuguese.
The following translations are being revised and corrected for the second time:
French, Russian, and Spanish.
For a translation to complete a full cycle and to be considered complete requires about forty years. A full cycle consists, first, of translation; second, of revision and correction; and, third, of second revision and correction. For example, the French translation began in 1956 and was first published in 1962. From 1979 to 1994 the first in-depth revision was done, and it was published in 1994. A second revision of fine-tuning and polishing started in 2010, was completed late last year, and will be published this year. So the French translation required almost 60 years to complete a full cycle; the French translation is the only translation that has completed a full cycle. Translations are a long-term project and one that Urantia Foundation is committed to.